Portions of this article By CRYSTAL DEY posted with permission of the Bemidji Pioneer
BEMIDJI — Smooth Scottish stones sailed across the iced surface of Lake Bemidji for the first time in more than 80 years this weekend.
Curling has returned to Bemidji’s winter festival.
Bemidji is, after all, Curling Capitol USA; it only makes sense that an outdoor curling Bonspiel would highlight Winterfest on Lake Bemidji.
“We needed a winter event like Dragon Boats,” said Terry Matson of the Bemidji Curling Club.
Other events as part of Winterfest were a pond hockey tournament, a Brrmidji Plunge into Lake Bemidji and a cornhole tournament.
As of Thursday, Matson didn’t know how the ice was going to turn out for the Bonspiel that began on Friday night. To accommodate the competition, six sheets were needed.
“It’s beyond my dreams,” Matson said Saturday. “The ice turned out really good.” He said setting up the outdoor arena will take half as long next year.
Matson credited Josh Bahr with mastering the smooth ice. Bahr was playing against Jamie Haskell on Saturday afternoon. Haskell competed at the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy. Former Olympian Joe Polo was also roaming the ice on Lake Bemidji during Winterfest.
“They’re having a blast out there,” Matson said.
Three draws were played Friday with another 10 on Saturday. The championship team takes home a custom Paul Bunyan curling trophy.
Matson said there were 26 teams competing this year. Next year, he anticipates 48.
“And they better register early,” Matson added. “This year, the weather hindered sign-ups early on. I’d have had more teams if I had a normal winter.”
Entry fees collected by teams participating in the Winterfest Bonspiel are contributed to the Bemidji Curling Club’s junior curlers for equipment and travel expenses. Matson said Bemidji’s junior curling team is the largest in Minnesota.
“Interest in the curling club picks up during Olympic years,” Matson said. So does participation in his community education curling course offered in October.
“If you understand the game, it’s a hoot to watch,” Matson said.
The last time curling was performed on Lake Bemidji is believed to have been in 1932 when the Hibbing Curling Club introduced it as a demonstration sport during Bemidji’s winter carnival.
A special thanks to Dale Goodyear and team for this one-of-a-kind trophy. Kathy Winger carved Paul Bunyan out of a chunk of a pine tree that had blown down in Debs during the July 2012 windstorm, Gardell Emery, a local lathe artist, turned out the wooden curling rock, and cabinet maker Gary Bergsven built the trophy’s wooden base. Goodyear ordered a piece of Plexiglass from Glass Doctor then cut it and polished the edges with sandpaper and steel wool according to Bemidji art teacher Gregg Wilimek’s design. Josh Gerard painted the statue, and Brittany Thompson of Ken K Thompson Jewelry engraved the plaques for the winners’ names. Goodyear and his wife, Lois, assembled the parts.
Junior teams from Bemidji Curling Club have been active this season with some great results. We have two teams competing at the 2017 Junior Nationals in Fargo this week. Emily Quello, Hannah Kroeger, Leah Yavaro and Mackenzie Ritchie return to nationals after securing a berth in the Western challenge round. Also returning to this year’s competition is the team of Riley Fenson, Zach Erickson, Zach Suther and Carson Liapis. We wish them good luck!
In other action, local juniors took top honors in their divisions in the U-14 and U-18 competition in the recent Fargo Junior Bonspiel.
Hans Berg, Haaken Vaughn, Logan Sathre and Gracia Berg won the U-14 division.
Jon Gaasvig, Aaron Sawa, Shawn Quello and Ryan Prestigard won the U-18 division.
Congratulations to our Juniors!
The Lake Bemidji Winterfest is an annual event sponsored by the Bemidji Chamber that includes outdoor Curling, Hockey, Turkey Bowling, the Brrrrrmidji Plunge and the Hard Water Ice Fishing Tournament on Lake Bemidji. The event is held the first weekend in February. More information about all the events, including lots of pictures are available at: http://www.winterfestbemidji.com/
The Bemidji Junior Curling Committee is in charge of the Bonspiel at the Winterfest event and spends many hours installing 6 sheets of curling ice on the lake and then running this event. Proceeds from the event are then returned to the Junior Curling Committee which are used for a variety of things including:
– Purchasing equipment such as brooms, sliders, curling shoes (which are available for rent for the curling season at a modest cost).
– Put on the annual Junior Curling “Curling Rocks” Bonspiel.
– Reimbursement of a portion of club dues for junior members.
– Pay the entry fee for state play downs.
– Organized travel to out of town bonspiels at a very low cost per participant.
– Partial reimbursement for competing in out of town bonspiels that require overnight stay.
In the last 8 years the Junior Committee has raised over $46,000 in support of Junior Curling including $4,500 from this years Winterfest Bonspiel.
New committee members are always welcome!